Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday's Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: TRENT'S OWN CASE (1936) by E. C. Bentley


Thanks to my blogging friend Joan's generosity, I was able to read E.C. Bentley's TRENT'S OWN CASE (published in 1936) and if after reading my review you feel as if you might like to read it, I'll be happy to pass it on. Though you must live in this country since I can't afford sending books overseas anymore. Sorry. Oh, meant to say: this applies to the first reader who lets me know with a comment requesting the book. In case of a tie, I'll toss a coin. Then maybe that person can pass it on and so on and so forth.

This second book featuring artist and occasional sleuth Philip Trent published 23 years after the original TRENT'S LAST CASE which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, is, to my mind, equally as good as the first (which is usually seen on lists of the 100 Best Mysteries), though some may disagree.

The irrational behavior of his friend, psychologist Brian Fairman, plunges Trent into a race against time to save Fairman from being booked and tried for the murder of philanthropist James Randolph, an intransigent rich guy with peculiar habits. The fact that Fairman has confessed to the crime doesn't help matters any. That this puzzle also involves a lady in distress goes hardly without saying. This time out it's the glamorous Eunice Faviell, an actress and friend of Trent and his wife, who has suddenly found herself at the center of old man Randolph's unexpected attentions. This is the same young woman for whom Brian Fairman has nurtured an unrequited love for years.

The plot thickens.

A plot which includes not only murder but blackmail and debauchery (life in between wars, you know how that goes) and is, by the way, full of intriguing destinations and characters including Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Gideon Bligh (another of Trent's friends), Simon Raught, a sinister servant who obviously knows more than he's telling, Verney, the dead philanthropist's devoted private secretary who is now out of a job he loves, Eugene Wetherill, a nefarious villain and enemy of Trent's as well as a sometime lover of Eunice Faviell (whose taste in men must be seen as defective) and last but not least, Trent's sweet old aunt who is just off on a trip to the Continent.

Seeing his aunty safely on board the train, Trent catches a glimpse of a very agitated Brian Fairman who leaps aboard at the very last minute. When later, returning to England, Fairman is taken into custody for attempting suicide, Trent knows all is not as it should be.

To clear his friend, Trent is soon off to Dieppe, following in Fairman's mysterious footsteps to a small French 'commune'. The trip seems at once senseless and bizarre ending as it originally did in Fairman's attempted suicide. But Trent perseveres.What is it about Dieppe?

What I loved best about TRENT'S OWN CASE:

1) No long-winded descriptive character background to begin the book which I found slightly off-putting in the first of the Trent adventures. Though this book too refers to the murder of an unlikable rich man.

2) The brisk nature of the writing more in keeping with the 30's, which I found very enjoyable even when venturing far afield into long ago scandal and seemingly unrelated events. Obviously the first book, having been published in 1913, was written in a more flowery, Edwardian sort of style which takes a little getting used to.

3) The labyrinthian plot which drops a major clue in the second chapter or so which comes back in a flash near the end. At least it did so to me.

4) The various destinations, including the aforementioned Dieppe, a place I'd never heard of except vaguely in WWII history. But even more did I love Trent's happy life in the English Cotswolds:

Trent had discovered the Cotswold country as a very young man, newly land-conscious, when it had appealed to him with an irresistible compulsion. There are some places which, seen for the first time, yet seem to strike a chord of recollection. "I have been here before," we think to ourselves, "and this is one of my true homes." It is no mystery for those philosophers who hold that all which we shall see, with all which we have seen and are seeing, exists already in an eternal now...Trent in his travels, had often chanced upon a house, a town or a stretch of country, unknown to him in terms of normal experience, which claimed him as its own with unerring certainty. As it had once been on a magic day in Tuscany, driving up to Montalcino, so with that counterscarp of the Cotswolds overlooking the vale of Evesham. So he had set his heart on a long, grey, stone-tiled house, flanked by shaped yews, which stood on a terrace cut in the brow of a steep hill, with woods and fields and villages stretching away below to the barrier of the Malvern Hills, and a glimpse of the Welsh mountains beyond.

Sigh. That is just how I felt upon my one and only visit to the Cotswolds many years ago.

As I said, a very enjoyable book - perfect for a cold winter's night - which I'll be happy to pass along if anyone would care to read it.

Since this is Friday, it's time to check in at Patti Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today. 

12 comments:

  1. I did read this but so long ago that I realise I remember next to nothing about it or even TRENT'S LAST CASE, which is bad considering the latteer's priviliged place in the history of the genre - thanks for the review Yvette, I really must dig it out again.

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    1. Yes, you really should, Sergio. :)

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  2. A favorable review from you, Yvette, is certainly going to get me to read this sooner than laer. I have all three of the Philip Trent books, but have only read the "classic" first book. Time to pay Trnet a visit.

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    1. I thought you'd already read this, John. But yes, time to pay Trent a visit. :)

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  3. It's been a long time since I read the TRENT books...I just recently picked up a vintage hard back copy of TRENT'S LAST CASE. Like Sergio, I should probably revisit that one.

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  4. I just looked and I can get this at my Library. They don't keep all of the older books which is a pity.

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    1. You're fortunate they keep even this much. My library is woeful when it comes to vintage books.

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  5. Will you eventually be reviewing Bentley's collection of Trent short stories, TRENT INTERVENES?

    JIM DOHERTY

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    1. Not sure, Jim. If I get my hands on it. Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. You've caught me, Yvette - while I've read "Trent's Last Case," I"ve never read "Trent's Own Case." Sounds as if that's an oversight I need to correct in the near future... ;-)

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  7. Oh, I think you'll enjoy it, Les. In truth I preferred it to the first novel.

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